Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Angels of Chora

Archangel in Monochrome

Face of Archangel Raphael in a monochrome study

Warmest greetings icon friends!

Our summer visitors have all gone home, my dissertation for the icon diploma has been handed in (more on that in another post) and our icon classes resumed last week with Aidan Hart in time to celebrate the feast of St Michael and All Angels.

Having spent a couple of months away from the paintbrush, I felt I would benefit from painting a monochrome. Besides, I had already stretched some 300gsm watercolour paper (Fabriano Artistico hot pressed), and had the images already prepared in outline.

painting the lines of st Michael in monochrome

First lines applied on Archangel Michael in English Red Light pigment

These are the same images of the Angels of Chora which I am using in my triptych (see previous post).  I haven’t painted the faces on any of the figures in the triptych yet, so these monochromes have been helpful in getting me back in the painting groove.

Modelling icon garments

Building up the layers of pigment to model the garments.

archangels Raphael and Michael

Background added of pure azurite pigment

I really enjoy painting monochromes. It’s relaxing not having to think about colour and to simply concentrate on the form, looking at the areas of light and shade. I also wanted these studies to stand on their own, so I gilded the haloes and garment highlights.

If ever you feel daunted by the prospect of painting an icon, this is a really good place to start.

I love the deep blue-greys of the Chora angel backgrounds. They give a wonderful feeling of a heavenly sky. It is quite a challenge to match colours, for one thing, even if you know that the colour used was azurite, this can vary according to the quality of the stone and where it was mined. For these studies, I applied over a dozen washes of azurite – the pigment which I ground from a small rock bought from Burslem Lapidary shop, then a few washes of Indigo from Cornelissens.

I used acrylic gold size, applied in two layers, then after ten minutes or so, I applied some transfer gold leaf (from Wrights of Lymm) once it had gone tacky. If you add a pinch of red pigment to the size, it helps to give some depth to the background as well as show you where you’ve painted.

gold transfer leaf

Adding gold leaf to Archangel Michael’s halo

After applying the gold leaf to the halo, I then used a compass with a dip pen attachment to draw a circle to frame it. This is fiddly and I haven’t mastered it at all yet and ended up with a line thicker than I intended.

thick line around halo

Halo line a bit too thick.

I had used a sheet of cardboard over the image to protect the face/paper from getting a compass puncture mark right in the middle of Raphael’s brow. The thickness of the card had a knock-on effect of dislocating my circle by a few millimetres – I will try a sheet of acetate cut to size next time.

Here are the finished studies. They are not the best photographs but hopefully give you an idea of the end result.

monochrome archangel Michael

Complete study of  Archangel Michael

Archangel raphael

Complete study of Archangel Raphael in monochrome

That’s all for now.

Many thanks for reading. Ronnie

PS Aidan has recently been filmed whilst painting an icon and has been included as part of Simon Schama’s Face of Britain series.

PPS Prints and cards of Archangels Michael and Raphael are now available from Smith York Printers.

7 Responses to “Angels of Chora”

  1. Sister Benedict

    Thank you so much. It is very refreshing to look at these images and read your notes.

  2. gaypogue

    Ronnie, I am so glad to see this post. I was afraid you had dropped off the planet. I do understand about having guests. When we took this interim position in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we did not realize that we would also be running a bed and breakfast, lunch, and dinner for our friends and family. It’s all been good but the art does not happen as much as I would like.

    I love the studies. I can imagine that they are easier to fit in-between other events, and will make for better finished icons. I shall try my hand at them.

    Thanks and God’s blessings on you.

  3. ronniecruwys

    Hi Gay, lovely to hear from you! It’s great to have family and I wouldn’t have it any other way, only art takes a back seat! I abandoned my blogs over the summer as every spare minute went on my dissertation. Hope you are interested in lettering for icons as there will be a few posts on that subject coming up soon:-). Really appreciate your comments. These monochrome studies are a lovely way to get back into the rhythm of painting. All the best with your painting, even if it is in the imagination!

  4. 1annemarie

    Oh, how I enjoy you website! You are so talented. Much to learn for me here by looking at your drawings. I attended a class with Aiden some years ago, and would really have loved doing the diploma – but living in Denmark it seemed impossible for me.
    Anyhow – I will enjoy following your way ….

    • ronniecruwys

      hI Anne-Marie, how lovely to hear from you. I wonder if you went to one of Aidan’s courses at Walcott Hall, they are really special. Yes, i do feel so blessed being on this course and I feel that if I can share a little of what Im learning, it might be useful to other icon painters. Thanks so much for getting in touch.

      • 1annemarie

        Yes, I went to Walcott Hall, and learnt so much! I really enjoy your blog, and am looking forward to digging a bit deeper. I have also watched some of your videos on youtube – excellent!

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